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What if Percy hadn't let Bianca go into the Talos statue? What if he was the one 'lost in the land without rain'?







What if Bianca had lived, and Percy hadn't?

Bianca

(Art by Viria)


The Titan's Curse

"Ahh!" Thalia screamed and stabbed her spear into a stray piece of wreckage.

Zoë stared at the ground, a somber look on her face.

Grover couldn't stop sobbing.

I stood frozen in shock. He was dead. Someone had actually died. We had looked all night through the wreckage of the Talos statue, and found nothing. No sign of Percy. We don't know for sure he's dead, I told myself. But somehow I did know. For whatever reason, I couldn't get it out of my head that Percy was really gone for good.

Zoë, who seemed the least affected by Percy's death, got us moving again. We found a rusty old pick up truck by the side of the highway and got it to start. I sat with Zoë in the front, and Thalia sat in the back with Grover, who still hadn't stopped crying.

I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out the Mythomagic figurine. "This is my fault"

"No, Bianca. Thou could not have known what would happen-"

"You told me not to touch anything. If I had just listened Percy could still be alive right now-"

"We all took on this quest knowing at least one of our party would not return. Percy Jackson knew the risks, and followed us anyway. He died to save us, he died a hero's death. He will surely make Elysium. Thou shalt not dwell on that which thou cannot change."

I fell silent at that. 'One shall be lost in the land without rain'. Why had we gone anywhere near the desert?


"Bianca. Awake. We have arrived." I heard Zoë's voice as I sat up.

"We're at the west coast?" I asked groggily.

"No. We are at the end of the road. Come." I reluctantly got out of the car.

Grover found a goat path, which was narrow but cross-able. We ended up on another road.

"Great. What now?" Thalia said, though she seemed glad to be off the path.

We sat down and thought. "I've got nothing."

"Neither do I." Zoë said.

"Same here." Thalia said. Grover just resumed sobbing, probably thinking of Percy again without any distractions.

I heard a rustling in the bushes. Then emerged four of the skeleton warriors. I scowled. "Not these guys again."

Thalia summoned her spear and shield and stood protectively over a still-crying Grover, Zoë drew her bow out of thin air. I just stood with my jaw set. I was in no mood to fight skeletons. Apparently the monsters weren't in a fighting mood either; the just looked around like they needed to find something. "They're looking for Percy. They were after his scent. I guess it's still lingering on us." Thalia said.

I clenched my fists. "He's not here!" I yelled angrily at the skeletons.

"Bianca-"

"He's not here and he never will be again!" I interrupted Zoë. "So leave us alone!"

On my words, the ground rumbled. A fissure opened in the ground at the skeleton's feet, and they were sucked in.

I looked to the others to ask who'd done it, but found all three of them, even Grover, staring at me with astonishment. I stared back. "You- You don't actually think I did that, do you?"

"Uh... Bianca?" Thalia pointed to the space right above my head. I looked up saw a holographic image of a wreath of bones, wrapped in a pitch black aura.

"You're a daughter of Hades." Thalia said in disbelief.

I stared at the fissure in the ground where the skeletons had disappeared. I knew at some subconscious level that it was true, but my mind couldn't fully comprehend it .

"So they all broke the pact." I heard Thalia continue.

"No. Do you not remember our previous conversation? She and her brother were frozen in time, they were born before the pact was made." Zoë said.

We were all silent for what felt like ages. "We should. Um." I wracked my brain for something to say.

"I cannot think of much else to do besides follow this road. We should find a place with a telephone, eventually." Zoë said.

After a lot of walking we found a gas station with a landline, and called a cab.

The days after that passed idly. After so much had happened in such a short amount of time, no one was in the mood to talk. And by some miracle, we reached the west coast on the morning of the day before the solstice.

"Great." I said, "So what now?"

Zoë pointed to a mountain peak in the distance. It looked unnecessarily ominous, wrapped in dark storm clouds. "If I am correct about what has happened, then what we are looking for will be on the same mountain as - well, it will be on that mountain." she said.

"You're sure?" Thalia asked.

"If I am wrong, it will not matter. We will be too late." Zoë started in the direction of the mountain, and we followed.

Walking to, as well as up, the mountain, took much longer than it should have. By the time we reached the top, the sun was setting. "Just as well. We would have had to wait for sunset anyway. Now, you must be cautious. The Mist is strong here, both kinds. And be wary of my sisters." Zoë said.

"What do you mean sis-" I started to ask, but she had already disappeared into the mist ahead on the road, followed closely by Grover and Thalia. I went after them.

We walked blindly until the mist cleared, revealing our twilit surroundings. It was a beautiful garden, with brilliantly colored flowers that shown in the evening light. In the center was the largest apple tree I'd ever seen, its branches laden with shimmering golden apples. I remembered from my vague knowledge of greek mythology that these were Hera's apples of immortality.

Around the tree was a creature that must have been a dragon. It had so many heads I couldn't count, and it's scales shown like a thousand copper pennies. Lucky for us, it seemed to be asleep.

I was pulled out of my thoughts by the sound of eerily beautiful song. Four adolescent girls emerged from the mist, all bearing a striking resemblance to Zoë. Probably the sisters she'd mentioned. They were also the ones who'd been singing.

"Sisters." Zoë said, confirming my thoughts.

"We see no sister," the lead girl said, "only a Hunter, a half-blood, a satyr, and-" she cut off with a confused look on her face when she saw me, but then gasped and stumbled back. Her sisters hissed.

"Child of the Underworld," she said with a hard expression, "You are not welcome here. Begone." she pointed farther up the mountain.

I looked at the others.

"Well, that's the direction we were headed in anyway." Thalia said, shrugging. We followed the girl's directions up the mountain, toward the center of the dark clouds.

What we found behind the dense wall of clouds were ruins. Shattered granite or marble columns, all deep black.

"The Titans' palace." Grover said.

"Othrys." Thalia agreed.

"Titans... as in the people that came before the gods? Weren't they like, the supervillains of Greek mythology?" I asked.

"You might say that." Zoë answered.

"We... we aren't going to have to, you know.. fight them, are we?" I asked nervously.

"Unfortunately, that may be the case. This is also the mountain where the titan Atlas holds..." her voice caught, her gaze landing on something at the center of the rubble. "used to hold up the sky."

I followed her line of sight and gasped. Even though I'd only met her once, I recognized the figure laboring under the weight of the swirling clouds. Lady Artemis, her dress tattered, her ankles chained to the ground.

"My lady!" Zoë rushed forward, and I was close behind.

"No. You must go my huntresses, it is a trap."

My patron sounded so exhausted, if I hadn't know she was immortal I would think the literal weight of the world was killing her.

Zoë knelt beside Lady Artemis, tears streaming down her cheeks, and tugged aimlessly at the chains.

"Oh, how touching."

I turned to see the source of the deep resounding voice.

A large man in a brown silken suit had spoken. Beside him stood a frail-looking college-age boy with sandy hair and ice-blue eyes, a reddish scar marring his face. He had his sword at the throat of that girl who'd helped Percy and Thalia rescue us from Westover - Annabelle? Anne-Marie? Something like that. Her hands were bound and her mouth was gagged. Behind them were almost a dozen of the snake-woman things carrying a golden coffin.

When I saw the coffin, a chill passed through me. I could hear Thalia and the blonde boy having some kind of angry exchange, but for the moment I was overcome with negative emotion. I fell to my knees.

"Bianca!" Zoë turned away from Artemis for a moment to look at me.

"It's the Titan Lord's presence. She's a novice, it's too much for her." Grover said.

"Now who's this?" asked the man who I'd heard the blond boy call the General.

"And where's Jackson?" the boy Thalia'd called Luke asked.

"Percy's-" I got shakily to my feet. "Percy's dead. He's been dead a few days now, actually. I'm Bianca di Angelo. And you're Luke." I glared at him. "You tried to have me and my little brother kidnapped."

Luke blinked. "He's- what?"

"Just as well." The general said. "It saves us time. As for you, daughter of Zeus," The General turned his attention to Thalia, "we have an offer for you."

"Whatever it is, I'm not interested." she said.

"Just listen, Thalia. Please." Luke said.

Her eyes were steely, but she didn't object again.

"You've heard of the Ophiotaurus?" the General asked.

"The cow-serpent thing."

"Yes. The 'cow-serpent thing' with the power to destroy the gods." Luke pointed to something I hadn't noticed before- a pool of water about the right size for a small horse. "Call to it, Thalia. It will come to you."

At this point I was immensely confused. Luke continued trying to entice Thalia while she stared at him with pained eyes.

"We aren't weak, Thalia." Luke pointed to the beach far below. I gasped- coming up the mountain were so many monsters I couldn't count, creatures I recognized from Nico's card game and so many others.

"Soon there will be more. We'll destroy camp Half-Blood, and then Olympus itself. We just need you to summon the creature, Thalia, and you'll be more powerful then the gods." He stepped toward her. "We'll be more powerful than the gods."

Thalia looked on the verge of tears. "I can't."

"Please! It's - it's my last chance! He'll use the other way if you don't! You're my best friend, Thalia. Help me. Please." I could see the desperation in Luke's eyes.

Thalia's jaw set. "Your best friend died that day on half-blood hill, Luke. And I think you did too."

And she charged him.

The scene broke into chaos. Luke and Thalia dueled with a vengeance, their eyes filled with pain. Zoë began to shoot at the General, and Grover played something on a set of... well, I wasn't exactly sure- one of those pipe things Peter Pan used. When he played them the plants around the approaching army came to life, wrapping around them and pulling them to the ground. I stood there in awe of my surroundings, unsure what to do.

Finally my gaze landed on the girl at Luke's side, struggling to free herself from her bonds. Thalia and Luke's battle had taken them a reasonable distance away from her, so I ran over freed her limbs. The minute she was free, she shot to her feet and rushed over to where Artemis was holding the sky.

"No." The goddess said immediately. "You cannot-"

"I held it once before." The girl replied. "I can hold it again for another fifteen minutes."

"I still cannot let you-"

But the girl already had her hands on the weight of the clouds. Her face contorted in pain, but relief was evident on Artemis's. My patron rolled out from underneath the clouds and went to join Zoë's fight with the General. I decided to do the same, drawing my bow and shooting at the man. The movements became mechanical; subconscious, really. What I was really paying attention to was Lady Artemis fighting.

She was changing form, switching between all of the different animals I'd seen on the walls of her tent. Her hunting knives were drawn, but they changed form too- claws, horns, antlers, anything strong enough to counter her opponent's javelin. I was so caught up in this I wasn't even really watching the General, so I didn't notice when he started to get the upper hand until Zoe moved between the two, blocking a final blow from the General. As it was, given Zoë and Artemis's differing size, the javelin merely grazed her side. After getting over his surprise, the man shoved her to the side, causing her to fly toward the obsidian rubble.

"Zoe!" I ran to kneel beside her.

"Oh, gods. Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods...." I muttered. Zoë was unconscious, but she had a gash on her side from where the General's javelin had hit her. I could see her back and right shoulder were already bruising from landing so hard on the sharp rocks. I took off my parka and folded it into a vaguely pillow-ish shape, then put it under her head. The silvery fabric began to stain crimson. I looked down at my hand and realized it was soaked in blood from lifting the back of her head.

"Artemis! Thalia! Somebody!" I yelled.

"Oh, no." and suddenly Artemis was beside me. I looked back at the scene behind me and found the General holding the sky, Luke no where to be scene, the monster army being held off by increasingly violent vegetation, and Grover, Thalia, and Anna- um... oh, whatever her name is, running toward us. I wondered what the heck I'd missed.

"We should get out of here. The plants won't hold them off forever." Grover said.

Artemis nodded. She pulled out a hunting horn. I wondered what kind of ride that would call, but the question was answered when a silver chariot appeared, pulled by- I blinked- golden reindeer.

"Get in." Artemis said. Thalia picked up Zoë and carried her into the vehicle, while Artemis took the reigns. Anna-whoever, Grover, and I got on after that, and we took off flying into the night sky.

Zoe was just starting to wake up when we landed. I didn't really pay attention to our surroundings- some big plain of grass. Artemis immediately attended to her Lieutenant, but she didn't seem to be making much progress.

"My Lady." Zoë said softly.

Artemis looked into her eyes and some sort of silent exchange passed between them. Artemis's eyes welled with tears. She stopped trying.

"What? No! You can't- You can't just give up!" my tone was somewhere between anger and panic. "You can't-" my voice broke. I lowered my head and sobbed.

Zoë took my hand. "Everyone must meet their end eventually, Bianca. It is my time. But thy life is only beginning."

I sobbed harder. "No! you can't die!" My words were barely audible. Zoë didn't respond, and instead addressed Artemis, or maybe Thalia. I tuned them out. I tuned out everything except my own crying.


"Bianca."

Thalia's voice. I looked up. I was still sitting in the same place I'd been when I talked to Zoë, except now the only people here, as far as I could see, were Thalia and I. "Where-"

"The Chariot. You've been sitting here for almost an hour. We need to go."

"What about.... what about Zoë?"

Thalia smiled sadly, and pointed to the night sky. I looked up and saw they formed a new pattern- a girl with a bow running across the night sky. "How.."

"Artemis." She held out her hand. "Come on."

"Feeling any better?" The blonde girl who's name I still couldn't remember asked.

I shrugged. She frowned, and turned to Thalia. "I've been meaning to ask you- Where's Percy? I would have thought he'd come for me."

We all just stared at her for a moment. "He- Annabeth, he did come. But he died." Annabeth. That was it.

Now it was her turn to stare. She met all our eyes in turn, then slowly shook her head. "No. You just told that to Luke to- to psyche him out or something. He's not dead. He can't be."

"Yes he is, Annabeth."

"No."

"Annabeth-"

"No! Stop lying to me! He's not dead, he can't be!"

"Annabeth." Thalia looked into Annabeth's eyes. She held her gaze for a moment, then fell crying onto Thalia's shoulder.

"It's sad, what love does to people."

I spun around to see Lady Artemis, her expression somber. "It makes the pain of loss all the more excruciating."

My eyes widened. How had she known..

"I- I'm sorry." I rushed, "I know I was supposed to be sworn off of romantic love. If you have to-"

"Bianca, what are you talking about?" Artemis looked at me soberly.

"I'm-" I froze. "You. You were talking about Percy and that girl, weren't you."

Artemis's expression was unreadable. "Bianca. Were you in love with that Percy Jackson boy?"

"What? No!" I assured."Gods, no. He's not.. uh. My type."

"Then who did you mean?"

I looked at the ground. My eyes stung again. "Zoë."

Artemis looked at me a moment more, than nodded. "That is...." She looked up at the stars. "Understandable."

"Huh?" She wasn't upset with me? "I broke my oath, didn't I? Do you have to.. destroy me, now?"

The Goddess of the Hunt took a deep breathe, and I could tell she was trying to keep calm. "Luckily for you, I am feeling sympathetic. You may go." She hadn't taken her eyes off Zoë's constellation. Her eyes were shining.

I inclined my head. "Thank you, Lady Artemis." I stepped out of the chariot. Thalia seemed to notice this, slowly pushed Annabeth away, and followed me.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"I'm out of the Hunters." I said.

I was glad Thalia didn't ask why. "So you're coming back to camp?"

"I guess."

She glanced at the chariot, then back at me. "There's.. something you should know about. No one's really supposed to talk about it, but.. it involves you. You should know.

"There's a prophecy about the half-blood children of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. That one of us will make some big choice that changes the fate of the world after we turn sixteen. And since you're a child of Hades, and you're aging again, the prophecy could be talking about you. We're going up to Olympus now, and if the decide you and I are too dangerous-"

"And Nico."

"Yeah. When people find out you'll both be in big danger. The Olympians have tried to kill people to stop the prophecy, and the titans could try and capture you and turn you to their side."

I felt my cheeks go pale. I looked away from Thalia, up at the sky. Then I pulled the figurine from the Junkyard out of my pocket.

"No one's going to find out." I said quietly.

"Huh?"

"You and Grover are the only people who know about us. Promise to keep it a secret. Make him promise, too. You can't tell anyone, not even Nico."

"Bianca-"

"Promise."

She sighed. "Okay. But eventually you're powers will start to surface. Especially now that you know you're parentage, they'll start to get stronger. People will figure it out sooner or later."

"Then... I'll stay away from camp." I said.

"What? No, I didn't mean-"

"I'd just put people in danger by being there anyway."

"What about you? If you didn't go back to camp then where would you go?"

"I'm not sure. I've always been pretty good at hiding. I'll just... go somewhere they won't expect."

She was frowning, and I waited for her to keep arguing, but instead she pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to me. I opened it and saw an address scrawled in spiky cursive.

"If you need some place to go, it's not far from here. She probably left it trashed, but there won't be anyone there."

I looked at her for a second, then closed my fist around the paper. "Thanks, Thalia."

She nodded, then started to turn away. "Wait!" I held out the Mythomagic figure. "Could you give this to my brother? And tell him I'll find a way to talk to him as soon as I can."

"Of course." Thalia took the figure, then looked at me. "Stay safe. It's not easy being a half-blood on your own. When it gets to be too much for you, Camp Half-Blood will still be there."

"I will go back. Just... after things have died down a little. I'll see you soon. Maybe."

I could tell she still didn't think I was doing the right thing, but she climbed back in the chariot. It disappeared in a flash of silver, taking Annabeth, Grover, Thalia, and Artemis with it.

I took a better look at my surroundings and noticed a paved highway in the distance. I saw a faded road sign reading 'Five Miles To Los Angeles'. I sighed and started walking.

The Battle of the Labyrinth

"Our spies report failure, my lord. They have succeeded in holding off our forces. Not only that, the Labyrinth itself has collapsed."

A female voice, from behind the door I had my ear pressed against. I was listening intently. Except I wasn't... me.

I seemed to be looking through the eyes of someone else. I was older than I was, maybe fourteen or fifteen. I was wearing a tattered orange t-shirt and jeans, and converse with worn-down soles, as apposed to the mix of silver and black I wore these days. I had a sizable gash down my right arm- my fighting arm, the girl I was noted with annoyance. Still, I clutched a bronze dagger in my left as best I could.

I was dreaming. Again.

A jolt went through both me and my dream-host at the sound of the next voice. "What of the heroes who completed the quest?"

"The satyr, the cyclops, and the middle-aged mortal woman reached Camp Half-Blood safely. The daughter of Athena was left behind."

"Excellent."

"'Excellent'? My lord, did you hear me? We failed miserably!"

"You may report back to the Andromeda until further direction is received, Kelli. And you would do well to not question your commanding officer, if you want to stay out of Tartarus."

Luke. The titan traitor. The guy who tried to have my brother and I kidnapped. Gods, I hated him. My dream-self, however, seemed to have more mixed feelings.

Before I could read these feelings, I was lifted off the ground.

"Hey! Let go of me you little-"

"Put her down. I've been expecting her." Luke said to the monster- I thought it might be some kind of giant- that had lifted dream-me. The giant tossed me through the door into some kind of dark throne room. The eerie golden coffin I'd seen once before sat on a dais.

Luke approached and tried to help me up, but I slapped his hand away, and stood myself.

"Welcome to Othrys, my old friend. Can I get you-"

"Skip the pleasantries, Luke. We're not friends anymore. I know you've been tracking my whole quest. So you should know- where are my real friends?"

Luke's pale face widened into a smile. "Right to the point. I always liked that about you. But how could you know we were following you? Almost three weeks straight of walking blindly through the maze, I don't see how you could be sure of anything."

I raised my eyebrows. "Well were you?"

Luke grimaced. "Alright. But I'm really not sure you want to know."

I tightened my grip on my knife. "Tell me."

Luke sighed, and walked over to a bronze plate on the wall, and the image of Camp Half-Blood appeared. The snow and christmas lights weren't there anymore, and hundreds of campers were gathered to watch a large grey sheet burn.

"They gave up looking for you. You've been ruled dead."

Dream-me's heart was beating fast. "What are you trying to prove? It's not far-fetched for them to think I died. I just have to get back there and set things straight."

Luke brought his hand back up to the plate. "Oh, this was a few weeks ago."

The bronze plate shifted to a series of images - a guy with blonde hair and grey eyes at a meeting, other campers referring to him as the head of the Athena cabin. A bunch of clips of people who I didn't recognize, but dream-me certainly did, being happy and having fun. A man and a woman with two young blonde sons having a nice family dinner.

"They've already mourned you and moved on. Life goes on for them without you, as if you never existed."

Dream-me was frozen. I stared at Luke in shock for a moment, searching for any trace of a lie. When I didn't find one, I collapsed against the wall in anguish and exhaustion.

"A dead half-blood is a pretty common occurrence back at Camp, isn't it? You don't mean anything more to them than the others."

Dream-me wanted to be angry, to argue and scream and fight, but I couldn't. I just sobbed. Sobbed and sobbed until I was sure the entirety of the grand building we were in could here me.

Luke knelt next to my huddled crying form, and took my hand. "You're going to be okay."

I looked weakly up at Luke. I was so tired. "No, I'm not. I can't." I took a shaky breathe. "The people I love always leave me behind. No one really needs me. Thalia, Percy, you, my mom, my whole family, now ...everyone? Everyone I know can just- " my voice cracked, "I can't lose anyone else. I can't take it anymore."

Luke frowned thoughtfully. "I know one person who needs you."

I laughed without humor. "That's low, Luke. Trying to recruit me at a time like this."

"That's-" He shook his head. "That's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to help you." He looked into my eyes. "You might be just another causality to them, but you mean something to me. No one knows me better than you. I know I've hurt you in the past, I know I've lied to you, and I'm so sorry. But I swear, everything I did was for the good of other half-bloods, to stop the gods from killing us off for the sake of their own petty issues. To put our destinies in our hands, not theirs."

My dream-self's mind swam in confusion. "I can't. I couldn't do that to-"

"I know." Luke quickly interrupted, "I know that you think of Camp Half-Blood as your home. So did I, once. I know you care about the people there. But you need to accept the fact that they don't feel the same way. You're nothing but a pawn to them. And so was Percy, and so was every other demigod who's died on one of their meaningless quests. I'm not like the gods. I care about you. You mean so much to me."

He wiped away my tears. "Fight with us. We can build a new world. And we'll be a new family. Just like I promised."

Dream-me stared for a moment. I had a feeling she would have kept arguing in another situation, but she was too exhausted. She'd spent so many weeks lost and alone and scared. She didn't have anyone left to turn too.

"You know what to say. I know you've heard the call in your dreams." Luke said, still crouched in front of dream-me.

I nodded, and caught sight of frizzy blonde curls out of the corner of my eye.

“I- I renounce the gods. I will see them destroyed. I will serve Kronos.”

The ground at my feet glowed blue, and a wisp of light flew behind Luke and into the coffin.

"Good." He said, smiling at me.

I embraced Luke, sobbing into his shoulder.

"You'll be okay." he repeated.


I jolted awake. I looked around the room frantically, then took a deep breath as I realized that yes, I was still Bianca di Angelo, and I was still in bed in the run down but still livable Grace mansion, which Thalia had given me full access to last winter.

It'd been six months since the Christmas I found out I was a half-blood, the daughter of the Lord of the Dead, Hades, and I hadn't been to Camp Half-Blood since then. Instead I was staking it out in LA, on the other side of the country from my little brother, trying to figure out what to do about that stupid prophecy.

I thought about my dream. The girl I'd been had seemed familiar the entire time but it was the glimpse of her hair that really placed it. The girl who'd rescued me from Westover with Percy, Thalia, and Grover, the one who'd been captured by the titans.... what was her name...

Oh, whatever. I'd done my best to keep a distance from the matters of the Olympians and Titans since my first (and hopefully last) quest. All it brought was pain and death.

I sprung out of bed and stormed over to the wardrobe before my mind could wander to- no. I refused to think of my fallen friends. I put on a grey t shirt and black pants, then headed out the door.

I stopped by a Mcdonalds for breakfast. When asked to pay, I dug around in my pocket and pulled out a green credit card with a lotus flower insignia. I'd had it with me ever since Nico and I were dropped off at Westover, and I was glad I still had it when Artemis and I parted ways last December. I had no idea who was paying the bills for the thing, but it always worked and I'd never been arrested for fraud, so I figured they didn't notice or didn't mind.

I left the store and started walking down the sidewalk. Odds are I would run into a monster or two (or five... that was a day) but I didn't really mind. It's not like I had much else to do, and it helped me keep my mind off my problems.

I scanned the city streets for possible monsters while I ate. I had a hunting knife with me, and I could shadow travel back to the house and get my bow if I needed it.

I considered what I might do with my day if I didn't find any monsters. Probably stop by DOA records and head down to the Underworld, maybe see my father.

Hades was... hard to figure out, but he'd given me help, when I asked, so I guess I could have a worse godly parent. I heard most of the gods don't even talk to their kids, much less give them cool Stygian iron weapons.

I turned the corner on the way to the Underworld, still not seeing any monsters, when something else caught my eye. A teenage girl, turned away from me, in gray camo pants and a dark t shirt. Her black hair was cut choppy and short, and she had a silver circlet braided into it.

I hesitated for a minute, but groaned and started walking in her direction.

"Why are you here?" I asked as soon as she was in hearing distance.

The girl turned to look at me, and my suspicion was confirmed. "Bianca! There you are. I stopped by the house and you were gone."

"Is something wrong? Is my brother okay?" I asked.

"I haven't been to Camp Half Blood in about six weeks, but last time I checked he was fine, and I'm sure he still is. I'm just here to make sure you're doing alright." Thalia said casually.

"I'm always alright, Thalia." I glared up at her. Thalia had made a habit of coming out here to check up on me every month or two. Mostly to see how I was doing, or to try and convince me I should go back to camp.

Hypocrite, I thought, looking at the circlet in her hair.

"I know, but the titans army has been especially nasty lately. We don't know what it is, but it's like they've got a new secret weapon up their sleeve. I had to make sure-"

"That it wasn't me, fulfilling my destiny to destroy Olympus?" I said sarcastically.

"No!" Thalia said, "I had to make sure they hadn't attacked you."

She looked at me. "It's not your destiny to destroy Olympus."

"It wouldn't be, if it weren't for you." I said.

Thalia had joined the hunters the night before her sixteenth birthday, eliminating herself from the running for child of the prophecy, and dumping the blame for the incoming apocalypse on me. Not only that, she'd done it by taking advantage of the opening left by Zoë's death.

Needless to say, I wasn't overjoyed to see her around all the time. Even if she was the only person I had really talked to in the last six months. Even if she did bring the only news I was probably gonna get about my brother.

Even if I would do the same thing, given the chance. If I hadn't already snubbed Artemis. If my brother wasn't next in line for the prophecy after me.

Thalia frowned. "Look, you know I didn't mean to dump the prophecy on you. I'm sorry that I did. But just because you're the half-blood of the prophecy doesn't mean you're going to destroy the world. You can save it, too."

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, right. The daughter of the most hated god in the pantheon is gonna pull out a win for Olympus."

"It doesn't matter who your father is. My father is Zeus, and I don't think I could have done any better than you can." Thalia said.

"We'll never know, will we." I started walking again.

Thalia started walking too, keeping pace with me. She sighed.

"So you haven't seen anything suspicious lately? Anything out of the ordinary?" she asked.

"Nothing." I said.

I thought for a moment. "I did have another one of those dreams again."

"About the titan army?"

"Yeah, but it was different this time. I was looking through someone else's eyes." I said.

"One of the soldiers?" she asked.

"No, it was a girl who had snuck onto Othrys. She got into Luke's room, and she was spying on him."

Thalia tensed at the mention of Luke's name. "That takes guts. Did he catch her?"

"Yes. But he didn't kill her. He said he was expecting her, actually, so I guess it was a trap." I shook my head. "Some of the details are fuzzy, but he acted like they were old friends. She wasn't having any of it, at first. Then he showed her something, and she started crying. I think it was that someone died. Or... no, that someone didn't die. But everyone thought they did."

I looked up at Thalia. "She mentioned your name."

"What did she say about me?" Thalia asked.

"Uh..." I rubbed my temples. "Something about leaving her behind? Or... family? I'm really not sure, Thalia. I think he ended up recruiting her, though. They were hugging when I woke up."

Thalia looked like she'd seen a ghost.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

Thalia looked away, and covered her face with her hand.

"That's impossible..." she muttered, "That's..."

Her hand slid down her face. She looked panicked. "Oh no."

"Thalia?" I asked, getting a little worried. "Do you know that girl?"

"I have to go," she said, turning around and walking quickly down the street.

"What?" I followed her. She never left this early.

"What's wrong?" I asked, more forcefully this time.

"It's probably nothing. It's probably..." Thalia shook her head. "I just have to make sure. I'm sorry, I'll try to come back soon."

Just like that, I lost sight of her.

---

I watched as the blonde girl followed her blue-eyed companion down the hall. I recognized her, even if this time I was looking onto her instead of through her eyes.

She had changed significantly since my last dream. Her tattered Camp clothes had been replaced by a plain white shirt, grey pants, and combat boots. She seemed to have showered, and her curled blonde hair hung loosely around her face. Her wounds had healed, and the knife I’d seen her with was strapped at her waist.

Luke turned to her. “You don’t have to do this. You’ve been through so much so recently, if you want to just rest-”

"No. I’m not going to just sit around in my room all day and cry," the girl interrupted Luke. "That won’t change anything. That won’t bring anyone I’ve lost back to me. I want to help. I want to do something,"

I caught him smiling to himself, and I figured that was the answer he’d expected, or at least hoped for.

They reached the end of the hall, and walked through a set of double doors into a large room made of black rock. There was a large table in the center, covered in maps and assorted weapons, with a few demigods dressed similarly to Luke and the girl sitting around it.

"Before we get to anything military, I need to ask you something.” Luke said to the girl. “It’s about someone who was on the quest for Artemis last winter, the young Hunter. Do you remember her?”

I blanched.

The girl frowned. “Yeah. Bianca something? She was new. She hadn’t been claimed yet.”

Luke nodded. “That’s the one. She disappeared at the end of the quest, right?”

She nodded. “Thalia told us all that Artemis sent her on some secret mission, and that she wouldn’t be back for a while.”

“Where exactly did you see her last? This is very important, Annabeth.”

I made a mental note to write that down when I woke up.

Annabeth thought for a moment. “Just some empty lot outside of Los Angeles. I could probably give you the relative location."

She looked up at him. "Why? What’s so important about her?”

Luke grimaced. “She and her brother are the children of Hades. They’re the only remaining candidates to be the child of the prophecy. We already have the boy, but he’s not.. cooperating. And anyway, he’s useless while his sister’s still alive, she’ll turn sixteen before he does.”

Annabeth’s eyes widened. "Children of Hades? But- How-"

"There will plenty of time to talk about the details after we have her in custody.” Luke said.

She narrowed her eyes, but after a moment she nodded. “I’ll find her. But then you’re going to explain all of this to me.”

“Of course. I knew I could count on you.” Luke lead her over to one of the larger maps, and my vision faded.


I woke up in a cold sweat. I wanted to think that had been nothing but a normal dream, but this dream had seemed even more real then the last one.

"There's no way. There's no way they could have Nico. Camp Half-Blood is a safe place, Percy and Thalia told me it was. They wouldn't have let the titans get him." I spoke aloud to myself.

Even as I said it I wasn't sure.

How had they known who I was? Who we were? Thalia had promised not to tell anyone. It could have been Grover, but why would he blab to the titans? They killed his best friend.

I thought of how Thalia had run off yesterday. It seemed like she knew the girl, An-

Anna.... Annie?

Oh, Hades, not again. The rest of the dream was still clear in my mind, but I couldn't recall the girl's name. I was sure Luke had said it at least once.

Well, I thought, If I'm gonna forget something, at least it wasn't an important detail.

What was I thinking? Oh, right.

Thalia had acted like she knew the girl from my dream. What if the reason she had acted so panicked is because I had so much inside information? I knew Thalia and Luke had a friendship once. The girl had mentioned Thalia as someone she cared about. What if she'd changed her mind after our battle on mount Othrys? What if Thalia had gone running back to her old friends and spilled my secret?

Maybe I was being paranoid. Thalia had dumped the great prophecy on me, and she had taken Zoë's place, but she'd also let me stay at her house. She'd delivered that figurine to my brother, and she'd kept me updated on everything I missed while I was hiding out. Maybe - maybe - the dream really was fake. Maybe I should trust her.

Yeah, I thought. There was probably nothing to worry about.

I would check, though. Just to make sure the dream wasn't real. I was overdue for a visit, anyway.

I stood up and faced the shadow my dresser cast on the wall. I took a deep breath, and stepped forward into the darkness.


I came out the other side in the shadow of a huge pine tree on a hill. Not turning to look at the small dragon or the golden sheepskin, I started running down towards the camp.

Camp Half-Blood was different to how I remembered it. It was summer, so the scenery was more like it had been in Luke's plate than the last time I was there in person. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, but there was no one outside enjoying the weather.

I walked toward the big blue house at the foot of the hill. I didn't bother knocking, and opened the door to see the horse-man I remembered from my first time here, Chiron. He was looking at a map, along with a girl I'd never seen.

She looked up. "Who let you in here?"

"I'm here to see my brother." I said, staring solemnly at her.

"Who is your brother, young lady?" Chiron asked.

"Nico di Angelo. I left him here six months ago. Which cabin is he in? I have to see him."

Neither of them answered me. They looked at each other knowingly.

My stomach twisted into a knot. I knew that look.

"Where is he?" I asked again, trying to calm down.

Chiron gave me that look. It wasn't even sympathy, I thought, my heart racing, my breath quickening. It was pity.

"I'm sorry to say Nico di Angelo is no longer here. He was seen going into the labyrinth about three weeks ago, and no one has seen or heard from him since."

"'Was seen'?!" I exclaimed.

They both seemed surprised at my sudden outburst. "You're telling me someone just watched a twelve year old boy walk out into the world completely alone!?"

"What kid of operation are you people running here!?" I yelled. The ground around the house shook slightly.

"The witnesses were wood nymphs, they tend not to get involved in such things." Chiron said, calmly.

"We have reason to believe the kid was being targeted personally by the titans, and that they sent him some sort of message to get him to leave. The thing we can't figure out is, why him? There are plenty of more useful demigods here." The girl said, looking back at the map. Chiron did, too. As if I wasn't there. As if I didn't matter. As if my brother didn't matter.

What had Luke said, in my dream?

A dead half-blood is a pretty common occurrence back at Camp, isn't it?

You don't mean anything more to them than the others.

" 'Why?' " I whispered.

They didn't look up, so I spoke louder. "My baby brother has been abducted by a monster army, and all you care about is why they thought he'd be useful?"

The ground was definitely shaking, now. So was the foundation of the house, and all the cabins.

"Please understand, we feel horrible about every half blood lost, but this is a war. If we stopped to send out a search party for every demigod-"

He stopped talking when the lights went out.

The room had been sunlit.

Campers walked out of their cabins, confused by the sudden darkness. There still wasn't a cloud in the sky, but it was like all the light had been sucked from the world. Everyone in the Camp stirred in confusion.

Everyone except for me.

I walked steadily backwards, off the house's porch and onto the ground. They followed me.

"Are you doing this?" The girl asked.

"I was such an idiot to trust this place. To trust anyone."

The ground began to shake more violently.

"You want to know why they took him?" I raised my arms to the sky. "I'll show you why."

The ground erupted. Skeletons flooded up to the surface out of two huge u-shaped chasms, behind and in front of the cabins. They didn't attack anyone, but the campers still ran screaming.

"I don't care about a war. I'm going to get my brother back, and if they've hurt him, I'm going to put this whole place in the ground."

I began sinking into the vast darkness.

"That's a promise."

The Last Olympian Part 1

The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The sky was bright blue.

Looking up, it was a beautiful day.

You couldn’t see that all the grass in the valley was dead, or that most of the buildings had crumbled or been displaced by what looked like a freak earthquake.

You could pretend the huge chasms that broke up the camp, primarily two u-shaped ones surrounding what was left of the cabins, didn’t exist.

“Oh gods.”

Thalia Grace stared out over the ruined fields. She was joined by about a dozen other half-bloods, most about sixteen, as well as Chiron. They all looked grim.

“A daughter of Hades. No doubt about it.” A camper standing off to the side said.

“We are screwed.” Another said.

“Bianca did this?” Thalia asked.

“You’re familiar with this girl?” Chiron asked.

Thalia ignored the question. “What happened?”

“She came here to check on her brother. We told her the titans got him. She flipped-”

“Wait, what?” Thalia interrupted. “When did that happen?”

“About four weeks ago, now.”

Thalia’s posture fell. “Oh, no.”

“She’s insanely powerful for her age. Who knows what she’ll be able to do by the time she’s sixteen.” One of the other campers continued.

“We. Are. Screwed.” The same camper from before said, sitting down.

“Not necessarily!”

“She’s clearly not on our side. She’s a child of Hades for crying out loud! She’s gonna be the child of the prophecy, and she’s gonna kill us all!”

“She is not.” Thalia glared at the boy who’d spoken, and he shrunk back. “She just lost her little sibling. She’s distressed, she’s not evil.”

“Thalia’s right. She’s not with the titans, not yet, at least. We still have time to convince her to join us.”

“We need to get her brother back here.” A girl who hadn’t spoken thus far said.

“We need to get them both back here.” Another agreed.

The campers began talking about search parties and tracking. One inquired if they thought anyone was brave enough to check down in the Underworld.

Thalia didn’t join in. She stood still, staring.

I felt like I’d been hit by a bus.

I groggily opened my eyes to morning light shining in through the windows. It had been mid-afternoon when I went to camp. I guessed I’d been knocked out for a while.

I was lying on my bed, which I thought was strange. I would have expected myself to wind up collapsed on the floor after shadow traveling like that.

I tried to sit up and cringed. My whole body was sore, and my mind was fuzzy.

I collapsed back onto the pillow and tried to make out the details of my dream. Had one of the campers said it was four weeks since Nico had been taken? They’d said three, when I was there. It was a strange thing to lie about. Unless…

I ignored the pain and stood up, going to get something to drink, and maybe an aspirin. I needed to go out and check the date somewhere, look at a newspaper or something.

“You’re finally up.”

I froze at the sound of the voice.

“Are you ok?”

I clenched my fists. My muscles screamed in protest, but a spun around and tackled the source of the voice.

“Bianca!” Thalia said.

We were on the floor now, me on top of her. She caught my fist when I tried to throw a punch.

“You lied to me!” I shrieked, trying to pull my hand away.

“I didn’t know!” She grabbed my other arm and pushed me off of her, onto the floor. When I tried to attack her again, she pinned my arms and got on top of me.

“Bianca, you were passed out for eight days. You’re disoriented, you need to calm down!”

I struggled against her grip, but relaxed as I registered her words. “Eight days?”

Thalia nodded.

I had been out for more than a week. My little brother had been in the hands of the titan army for another whole week because I lost control of my stupid powers.

“Let me up.” I said.

Thalia looked skeptical. “Are you going to-”

“No! Let me up!”

Hesitantly, she let go of my arms. When I didn’t try anything, she stood.

“I came here as soon as I heard what happened. I found you passed out on the floor looking like you were dying,” she said

“I would have been fine,” I said, standing up and brushing myself off. I probably wouldn’t have been fine. “I don’t want your help.”

Thalia crossed her arms. “Bianca, you can’t do stuff like that. You nearly destroyed half of Camp Half-Blood. People got hurt, and you nearly killed yourself!”

“They let Nico get kidnapped by a monster army! He’s probably hurt!” I snapped.

I crossed my arms too, and looked away. “And I wasn’t trying to take it that far. I definitely wasn’t trying to hurt myself. I just got caught up in it. I got so emotional, and… my powers kind of took over.”

Thalia frowned. “What do you mean, they ‘took over’?”

“I mean one minute I’m talking to the camp leaders. and they tell me Nico’s gone, and I start thinking about the stuff that Luke guy said in my dream, and next thing I know, the valley’s being consumed by a skeleton-earthquake and all the light’s been sucked out of the sky! I wasn’t trying to do it, it just happened!” I realized I was probably yelling. I didn’t care that much.

“Bianca, that’s-” Thalia paused. “Wait, what about Luke?”

“In my dreams. He told that blonde girl that Camp Half-Blood didn’t really care about individual demigods. I thought it was garbage then, because most of what Luke says is garbage, but you know what? He was right!”

“No, he wasn’t!” Thalia said, almost angrily. “Luke is never right, Bianca. Please don’t listen to him.”

“Y-” I began to say, but stopped. Recounting my memories of right before I’d blacked out had made the rest a bit clearer. Specifically, the dream I’d had right before.

“Why? You afraid I’ll figure out some titan secrets if I listen too closely?” I spat.

“What?” Thalia asked.

“You’re with them! You sold me out!” I accused.

“Are you crazy?” she said, stepping back.

“There’s no other way they could have known about my father! You decided to share some secrets with your old friends, and you got my brother abducted!” I screamed, walking forward.

“Luke is not my friend anymore! I would never do that, Bianca!” She held her hands in front of her. “You need to calm down!”

I clenched my fists. The room seemed to be getting darker. Was the ground-

No. I couldn’t afford to get knocked out again. I needed to control myself.

I took a deep breath. “Get out of here.”

“It’s my house.”

I grit my teeth. “Fine.” I grabbed my weapons off the table, and headed towards the door. “I’ll go.”

“No!” She almost put her hand on my arm, but thought better of it. “I’ll leave. You need to rest, and clear your head.”

Thalia paused in the doorway. “We’ll be near the Angeles Forest, if you need anything.”

I relaxed as she walked out, and shut the door behind her.

And tensed right back up when I heard the doorbell ring.

I stormed up to the door and flung it open. “I told you to get out-”

I stopped talking. It wasn’t Thalia.

It was a girl who looked no more than three years older than me. She was wearing a beige pantsuit, and carrying one of those big clunky tote bags.

She was staring right at me, and my first thought looking at her face was that she was strangely attractive.

Pretty steel gray eyes, pretty brown hair pulled into a bun. Soft-looking lips. Tan skin sticking out against her other, pale features.

My second thought was that I knew her.

I couldn’t place it, but I knew this woman, and seeing her filled me with pure dread.

I took about five steps back, on instinct.

“Whoa,” she held up a hand, and stepped over the threshold.

I thanked the gods I was still holding my weapons. I held a knife - a silver one, that I’d kept from my time in the hunters - defensively in front of me.

She looked derisively at it, then stepped even closer. “You don’t need that. May I come in?”

She looked at my face expectantly, then sighed when I didn’t answer. “Young lady, I have reason to believe you have been living alone, without a parent or legal guardian, in this-” she gestured to the admittedly run down state of the Grace manor - “house, for the last six months?”

I stared at her. “Who are you?”

The woman - or girl, judging by her looks,- pursed her lips. “I’m employed by the government of the state of California.”

She did an emotional 180, and smiled at me. “I’m here to take you to a proper home.”

I looked her up and down. “You’re a social worker?”

“Don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be.” She held out a hand. She was still smiling. I felt sick.

“Just come with me. We’ll find you a new family.”

I froze. I stared at her for a long moment.

“You dyed your hair.”

The woman - no, girl, I was sure now- blinked. “What?”

In the split second she was confused, I stuck the knife, and the other knives I’d been holding, into my belt, and knocked my bow.

The girl raised an eyebrow at me. “You have a good memory. You still remember my face after meeting once, six months ago?“

"I saw you in a dream. You joined the titans. Luke Castellan sent you to find me.” I tightened my grip on my weapon. “Thalia told you where I was. Of course.”

She looked skeptically at me. “Thalia? You think Thalia’s with us?” She shook her head. “I found you on my own. It’s not exactly hard to track a half-blood with your power.”

I narrowed my eyes. She didn’t seem like she was lying.

She tugged on the thing holding her hair in it’s bun, and pulled it out. Her hair fell around her shoulders, and flashed back to it’s normal blond color. Not hair dye, then.

Her hand moved to her big bag. “What do you know?”

“I know you’re old friends with Luke and Thalia. I know Camp Half Blood thinks you’re dead, I know you betrayed them to join the titans, and I know-” I leveled my arrow at her chest- “I know you know where my brother is.”

The girl stared at me for a moment, then smiled again. I cringed. “Yes, I do. And if you’ll put that down and follow me, I’ll take you right to him.”

“I’m not following you anywhere. You want to use me to control the prophecy. I know what you’re doing.” I took a step forward.

The girl didn’t look intimidated. “You don’t want to do this. I heard about what you did at Camp Half-Blood. You have incredible abilities. We could help each other.”

I stared at her for one last moment. “I don’t need your help to save him.”

I let the arrow fly.

Faster than I would have thought a person could, she snatched a bronze knife out of her bag and blocked my shot. She shook her head and waved towards the doorway. “Take her.”

Before I could process what was happening, empousai daimons and dracanae snake women were flooding into the house. I frantically re-knocked my bow and took out the one closest to me, but half a dozen more came in as I did it.

The last ones came in and shut the door behind them. There were at least twenty.

I ran towards the entrance to the hallway, intending to run to the back door, but one of the empousai threw some of her flame-hair at the ground in front of me. It easily ignited the bad shag carpeting. Another one did the same thing to the wall the window was on.

The flames spread quickly. A section of ceiling near the window fell, destroying maybe three of the dracanae, but backing me even farther into a corner.

"Careful! We want her alive!" the girl sighed, and approached me.

My back hit the wall. I was even more screwed than that boy from Camp Half-Blood.

I still have one chance, I thought. I watched the light the fire cast on the wall around me. I crouched down, trying to get just the right angle-

The girl and half the monsters lunged for me, and I sighed with relief as the smoldering, toxic air of the room was replaced with cold, clean darkness.


---


When I woke up, everything was still black.

I worried for a moment that I was somehow stuck inside the darkness, but no; I could see a faint red glow off to the right, and I could feel jagged gravel underneath me.

I sat up slowly. I’d come up in the shadow of an enormous black gate, which stood in the shadow of an even larger black structure. I recognized it.

My father’s palace, Erebus.

I sighed, and shook the shards of obsidian that had coated the ground out of my hair. I could feel the weight of my bow and arrows still strapped to my back, and an ache where they'd dug into me while I was out. My knives were still strapped at my belt, too. The rest of my belongings were still at Thalia's. I'd have to go back for them later.

I tried to grab the gate to help pull myself up, but hissed and flinched back as soon as I touched it. Looking down at my hand, I saw a pretty bad burn, and a few small cuts that were probably from landing. There were similar injuries all over my body, and on top of the already-present soreness from attacking Camp Half-Blood, it hurt to even move.

I couldn't afford this right now. I needed to get going.

I grit my teeth through the sting of getting up, and turned away from the gates, towards the fires in the distance. I knew one place I could get some quick healing, and an energy boost after having to use my powers again when I'd already overexerted myself.

As I walked, I thought of why the shadows had taken me down here. I had been panicked, confused, and disoriented, and I hadn't had time to think of somewhere to go when the home I'd known for the last six months was burning around me. My only thought was that I wanted to go somewhere safe.

Did I feel safe with my father? Maybe. On the occasions I spoke to him he seemed distant - emotionally and physically, sitting high above me on his throne - but, if I was reading him right, he did seem to be at least fond of me. And since he was respected or feared by most of the creatures inhabiting the Underworld, most of them were too afraid to mess with me.

I could get comfortable down here. And surely everyone at Camp Half-Blood, maybe even Luke and his cronies, would be too afraid to come down to the Land of the Dead. Especially to face the daughter of Hades, in her element, with her father, the all-powerful, all-feared Lord of the Dead, in screaming distance.

Feared. I kept coming back to fear. Is that why this was where the shadows took me?

I supposed there was a certain safety in being feared. If I could make Luke and the girl fear me, maybe they'd leave me alone.


My surroundings began getting more and more dangerous. Screams that had been faint and in the distance from my father's palace were now coming from all around me. The heat became suffocating, the smell of sulfur became nearly unbearable. I tried hard not to focus on the specifics of the horrible tortures taking place around me, or the anguished screams and cries for mercy.

I'd made it. The middle of the Fields of Punishment. A short distance in front of me, finally, was my destination.

A long River of fire glowing red and gold, that stretched across the entire field and on from there. One end flows down into Tartarus, so I hear, and the other end eventually converges with the other Rivers, creating a fiery, cold, oblivion-woe-and-lament inducing waterfall. The Infernal Rivers, I'd been told, were the most dangerous parts of the Underworld. None of them were to be taken lightly. They predated the gods and even the titans, and so much as touching the water from most of them would destroy you. The one standing before me was the River Phlegethon.

And I was here to drink from it.

Ironically, the River of Fire was the only River that was at all safe to drink. While drinking any of the others would destroy your mind or your body, the Phlegethon would heal it - if you could take the full pain experience of drinking fire. The Fields of Punishment were built around the River, so that my father's torturers could go on punishing the souls of the damned without risk of destroying them. I'd only had to come here once before. The day I ended up facing five monsters at once, a big thing that I thought was some kind of reverse-sphinx bit me in the side. I barely got away, and I was bleeding really bad. I went to my father, the only one I could think to ask for help, and he had his Furies take me here.

And now I was back. I knelt down and cupped my hands in the fire. I wasn't hurt as bad this time, so I probably wouldn't need as much. Shutting my eyes and trying my best to ignore the pain, I brought the fire to my lips, and swallowed.

The pain in my throat distracted me from the pain in the rest of my body, at least. You know how sometimes, when you're really thirsty and you finally get a drink, you can actually feel the cold liquid in your chest after you swallow? Imagine that, but with searing heat. And it doesn't stop at your chest.

The warmth enveloped my whole body, and for a moment I stumbled to my knees, immobilized. Then it started to fade, and along with it went the stinging pain of my skin and the aching soreness of my body. I sighed in relief, kneeling beside the River.

Alright. Time to think.

I knew Luke had tasked the girl specifically with finding me. I knew that if she found me again, I might not be able to get away, and if she still had her monster posse, I definitely wouldn't be able to fight her off. Not alone.

The girl had said she knew where Nico was. They were probably keeping him close. I might be able to follow her to him, but even with my strength back I would be kidding myself to think I could take on whatever forces they had guarding him solo.

I thought back to the words I'd exchanged with the girl.

It'd be easy to think she was lying. She'd been lying the moment she walked in the door.

I'd seen her lie. Her eyes, her voice, they shifted subtly between when she lied and when she told the truth. Maybe I'd made a big mistake. Or maybe I was about to.

I couldn't ask my father for help this time. He may be willing to protect me down here, but he wouldn't go so far as to leave his own realm. And there was only one other person in the world I could even hope would help me.

I took a deep breath. Then another one. For a moment I considered resting longer before using my powers again, but shook my head at myself. I'd spent enough time resting lately, against my will. It was time for action. Slowly, I stood, took one more deep breath, then let myself sink into the darkness.

I came up to the smell of ash. It was dusk, and I hoped that meant I'd only been out a few hours this time. Then I blinked. Where I'd wanted to come up, I shouldn't have been able to see the sky.

I looked at my surroundings and gasped, then coughed from inhaling the air. There would be no retrieving my belongings.

The monsters had cleared out, thank the gods. But the run-down old house I'd been living in for the past half a year was now nothing but charred ruin. The entire roof was gone, and almost nothing remained of the upper levels. I stood in the same spot I'd shadow-traveled out of earlier that day, but there was no remnant of the living room's old shag carpeting.

After a few minutes of staring, I walked out of the ruins and down onto the curb. I looked back one more time, then grimaced and started walking. I was gonna have more than a little explaining to do once I got to Angeles Forest.

WIP

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